Outward Belief

By Brandon Morgan


“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29, NKJV)


I’m a little hesitant in moving forward with the topic of this article. However, I think one of our greatest responsibilities as Christians is bringing principles of truth forward in love. Scripture is fairly clear about speaking the truth in love. Geoffery Chaucer wrote a prayer at the end of his iconic Canterbury Tales that I want to echo myself:


Now I pray to you all that hear this little article or read it, if there be anything in it that likes them, that thereof they thank our Lord Jesus Christ of whom proceedeth all wit and all goodness; and if there be anything that displeaseth them, I pray them also that they impute it to the default of mine unskillfulness, and not to my will. [1]


Let’s begin with the stories of the saints of the early church: men and women who performed great exploits for Christ and his body. They performed supernatural miracles, preached the gospel, cared for the poor, upheld their righteousness in times of wickedness, confounded royalty, and exalted the meek and all who called upon the name of the Lord. I love reading about accounts of those who came before us and meditating on their complete surrender and abandon towards God. However, reviewing these accounts does make me feel a little uncomfortable, and I’m forced to ask myself a question: “Do I serve the same God as they do?”


In comparing the body of Christ then to the body of Christ now, I see one major difference, and it’s a matter of how we tend to define ourselves. The saints were remembered for what they did. Saint Silvester defended his faith while dismantling the arguments of twelve Jewish scholars. Afterwards, he brought a bull back to life (long story). The Apostle Thomas, before his martyrdom, was said to have melted a statue of an idol without even touching it. My personal favorite is the account of John the Beloved. He appointed a man to be a bishop of an area, but instead, the man became the leader of a gang of robbers. When John returned to see the man’s condition, he literally pursued him on horseback to forgive him and show him fatherly love. These people were known by their great exploits for God.


It seems as if we in the present are defined by what we don’t do. We don’t curse. We don’t drink excessively. We aren’t mean people. We don’t fornicate. Now, I don’t mean to trivialize sin. What I’m saying is that those things should be prerequisites when one becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God. As Matthew writes: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).


So, in a sense, the bar has been raised.


This leaves us in a very awkward position. This awkward position is one the human race faced before the coming of Christ, and that’s the inability to live up to a set of rules. For example, let’s say a basketball player is taught all of the rules of basketball, and he simply strives to keep the rules. Now, the player that keeps the rules most diligently is not necessarily the best player. Additionally, even if this player tries his best not to break the rules, he is almost destined to break them simply due to physical and mental imperfection. Staying in bounds and dribbling properly are actually prerequisites to being a good basketball player.


But let’s stretch this analogy even further. There were certain players who stretched what people considered to be norms of the game and revolutionized the game of basketball. These players weren’t as concerned with following rules as they were about winning games, or as St. Paul would say, running the race.


For example, players such as Michael Jordan showed us that through athleticism and skill, one can drive to the basket to initiate contact with a defender to obtain an additional point from the free throw line. This occurrence is commonly known as the “And One,” and one can hear people shouting it in any NBA game, YMCA, or friendly backyard game. Now, imagine if Jordan were overly cautious about following the rules concerning fouls and never tried this. The game of basketball might be very different today.


Also, in basketball, there are rules about staying in bounds and not “traveling” (running with the ball in your hands). So often, we consider staying in bounds and not traveling as major victories in the Christian faith. But actually, that simply means you can keep playing. Even more often, we put ourselves on the bench for traveling, fouling, or going out of bounds because we feel that we failed. The game doesn’t stop because someone broke a rule, just like life doesn’t stop when we make a mistake.


If being morally upstanding and following the rules are not the primary objectives, then what are? It’s interesting: living by the law is easy in the short term, but very difficult in the long term. Whereas, living by grace is certainly something to adjust for; more so than rules, living by grace produces so much more fruit in the long term. To go back to the basketball analogy, living by law is focusing all effort on following the rules. Whereas, living by grace is trying to win the game using the gifts one was given because that is what they were created for.


We can be perceived as “good people” in living by law, but we are called to live by grace. And living by grace shatters the expectations of what we perceive as the normal Christian life.


So, let’s examine that Scripture in the beginning: to do the works of the Father, we must “believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:28-29). The believing Jesus part seems easy enough; check off the box. We’re done, right? But not really. I believe we’re called to an active belief.


So what is active belief? Let me introduce another analogy. Imagine you’ve received a credit card approved by the bank, and you go to the store to buy groceries. As you go to the counter and learn the cost of the groceries, you hand the credit card to the person at the register. You don’t have the cash to pay for your groceries, but because of what the person at the bank told you and the contract you read, you have the confidence to hand the person at the register your card.


It’s no different with our faith in God. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” God speaks to us even now through his Son’s living word and the example he provides for us. Just as we can take the bank’s word for money that doesn’t even exist on a plastic card, how much more should we rely on God’s Word and his “credit”?


Now, I’m not saying that we need to go out and try to do things in God’s name recklessly. We don’t need to resurrect a bull like St. Silvester or melt idols like St. Thomas. But I think the question we can ask ourselves every day that those saints probably asked themselves is: “Jesus, how can I best follow you today?” And then, simply listen.


I have this crazy belief that God wants to use all of us to “change the game” in some way. John alludes to this: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38, author’s emphasis)


There is an emphasis not only on inward satisfaction, but also on becoming sources of life for others. Whether that’s through prayer, holiness, charismata, justice, outreach, or incorporating Christ in all we do, there’s an element of what we believe transforming who we are in what we do. If the body of Christ were to follow these streams out to the end, this world could look a great deal more like the place we’re moving towards.


In Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, he mentioned the importance of the inner person resembling the outer person in word and deed [2]. And since Christ dwells within us, I simply think belief is putting God on full display.


[1] Chaucer, Geoffrey and Theodore Morrison. The Portable Chaucer. Penguin Books, 1987.
[2] À Kempis, Thomas. The Imitation of Christ. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 2014, 20.



Brandon Morgan studied Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at Tufts University and he currently teaches and mentors international students in Cambridge, MA. He has a heart for uplifting others. He enjoys reading, writing, and climbing.


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